I hate you, yoga

I recently spent two months cavorting around Bali and one day whilst lazing around the pool, I had a revelation: I was simply having too much fun.  I decided right then and there that I needed to step out of my comfort zone.  I needed to do something I hated.  And so it came to pass that I decided to rekindle my ongoing abusive relationship with yoga.

I’ve hated yoga for a long time.  Through good times and bad, through thick and through thin, yoga has always been there for me, my own personally despised sidekick.  Even though, deep down, I love the way yoga makes me feel and even though, deep down, I know that yoga is very, very great for my health/soul/body/spirit/life and even though, deep down, I am ALWAYS telling myself that I will do more yoga, more often, I still hate yoga.  Even though I practice (semi-) regularly, I absolutely hate yoga.  I wish I didn’t, but yoga makes no sense to me.  I’ve even tried different kinds of yoga in different sizes of buildings in different types of countries but nope, I still can’t stand it.  I hate yoga.  I’ve even tried having sex with a yoga instructor in hopes of enhancing my affection for this allegedly beautiful spiritual practice.  I still found myself hating yoga.  I don’t just hate yoga, I HATE yoga.  Really, I do.

I mean, really, what is there to like about yoga?  It boring and it’s difficult and it makes you sweaty.

However, one morning in Bali, I woke up feeling inspired and I was staying at a great little place by the beach and for whatever reason I woke up really early and they offered Ashtanga Yoga sessions for guests and I thought to myself, “I guess I’ll go and do a little yoga.”  So I did.

Signing into the class, I met Sida, my Indonesian twin.  I say this because Sida was approximately EXACTLY my same size, stature and build.  When we shook hands he offered me a gigantic glowing smile.  He was clearly happy to meet the American version of himself.  Later, I would learn that Sida was approximately EXACTLY seven times stronger and more flexible than me, but that is beside the point right now and I am getting ahead of myself.  Do not concern yourself with this fact.  Actually, I should probably just delete that sentence.

Anyways, it’s in the past.  Let’s move on.

Two sentences I should tell myself more often.

So, we started doing some yoga and everything was going according to plan: I was stretching, I was tired, I was sweating, I was bored and I was hating yoga.  The only thing that was keeping me in good spirits was Sida’s thick Indonesian accent.  You see, my brother from another mother had a very funny way of pronouncing certain words.  For instance, Sida did not say the word “Excellent.”  He said “Accent.”  Thus, whenever he was trying to offer mild encouragement, his plan backfired on me.  I didn’t hear encouragement.  Instead, I heard him inadvertently declaring that he could not speak English.  “Accent, Jimmy, Accent.”

Additionally, I should point out that my name is not Jimmy.  I have no idea why he was calling me that, but for whatever reason, being called Jimmy amused me greatly.  Sida, bless his heart, also possessed a rudimentary understanding of the English language.  As such, he did not know the following words: ‘raise’, ‘lower’, or ‘lift’.  Consequently, Sida would routinely say things that made me laugh out loud inside of my soul but, unfortunately, I was unable to express this joy out loud because I was doing yoga and yoga is quiet, serious business, don’t you know.

“Up your arms, Jimmy.  Up them.  Accent!”

Sida was alright in my book and I have to admit that I was not actually hating yoga that day.  Rather, I was only mildly despising it.  This is called progress.  However, I must also admit that at one stage Sida totally blew my mind.  He did this casually, unexpectedly and without even trying.  This only served to totally blow my mind even more.

This is what happened.

Sida had just demonstrated some crazy, super-mega-advanced yoga guru position that was way, way out of my league.  It was one of those poses where you watch the instructor do it and you just laugh softly to yourself and you think, “This guy is out of his mind if he thinks I will ever pull that off in my lifetime.”  Unfortunately, the rest of the class was more advanced than I was and they began trying to do the Sexual Sparrow or whatever the heck this pose was called (with Sida’s accent, I have no idea what he called it, or even if it was in English).  Meanwhile, I was distracted by the absurd difficulty of the posture and accidentally proceeded to stare quietly at the ceiling fan spinning overhead.  The whirling blades, combined with Sida softly encouraging the students, put me into a sort of a trance.

“Down your legs.  Near your earbone.  Accent!  Accent!”

Suddenly, I snapped out of my trance, looked up and saw Sida standing there, quietly, totally blowing my mind.

This is what he was doing.

Sida was standing there, perfectly straight, perfectly calm, encouraging us students with his cute, heavily accented little phrases, except that Sida’s left leg was held perfectly straight and was extended directly over his head.  He was balanced only on his right foot, his left ankle was touching his left ear and he looked like he was talking to his left foot on a pretend telephone.  He did this without even trying.  His speech was not interrupted.  His breathing was normal.  He was not sweating.  This pose was entirely unnecessary and I had no idea why he was doing it.  Maybe he was doing it just because he can.  This seemed unlikely but this event demonstrated to me one thing and one thing alone: I was not as good at yoga as Sida was and I never would be, no matter how hard I tried for the rest of my life.

During the rest of class, I was lost in thought about yoga and Sida.  I wondered how long he had been practicing to achieve such flexibility.  I wondered if he was born with such greatness, if anyone was.  I wondered if he loved yoga, or if he was just really good at dealing with his hate for it.  Was Sida simply more compassionate, dedicated and patient than me, or was he just born with a gift?  And what’s the difference?  Was he ‘a natural’?  How did it make him feel to be so good at something that people paid him money to help them learn to do things like he did them?

But, as you know, I hate yoga.  You sweat and you stretch and then, suddenly, right there at the very end everything becomes peaceful and calm and beautiful.  It’s mostly terrible until it’s almost over and then, suddenly, it’s not so bad at all.  The class is over.  You did it.  You made it through.  You’re okay, and it’s all done and you get back to your life.   Some days are good and some days are bad, but it’s still yoga, just the same silly little yoga practice, day in and day out – nothing more, nothing less.  When you get right down to the bottom of it, yoga is pointless.  But, I suppose in some way, life is pointless, too.

And that’s the point.

Jeremy Goldberg